Sun unveils rival to Microsoft .net

Sun Microsystems has joined Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard in the battle to grab a share of the future e-business...

Sun Microsystems has joined Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Hewlett-Packard in the battle to grab a share of the future e-business infrastructure, with the launch of its new architecture, Sun Open Net Environment (Sun One), writes Eric Doyle.

At the launch, Sun CEO Scott McNeally's constant jibes made it clear that he sees Microsoft .net, or "not yet" as he constantly referred to it, as the main competitor. The outspoken Sun chief also poked fun at his competitor's recent move away from Java through its offering of a translation and wrappering technology called Jump, designed to bring Java into the Microsoft C# environment as a secondary language.

Arriving on stage, to the strains of Van Halen's Jump!, McNeally, dressed as a software developer in a baseball cap with ponytail attachment, said, "Jump? Now why would anyone want to do that?" In a self-mocking dig at Sun's strong hardware reputation, he added, "Somebody's been asking me if I'm a software guy - don't I look like one?"

Casting aside his disguise, he went on to announce the elements of Sun One, jumping on the open standards bandwagon alongside his competitors but claiming openness as Sun's sole preserve.

Phil Cross, developer marketing manager for Microsoft, said, "I don't understand what he's trying to say. Ask Sun what application language it bases Sun One on and the answer is Java. Ask Microsoft the same question and the answer is any language, including Java. Sun's big disadvantage is that it hasn't got a proven track record in application software, but we do see it as a strong competitor."

John Spires of Sun UK pointed out that Microsoft does not natively support Java, adding "Sun's solution is predicated on Java, XML and LDap [Lightweight Direct Access Protocol] and you can't throw away any of them and conform to the spirit of interoperability."

Although Java has been widely adopted and is the number one programming skill on the jobs market, it is not an open standard because Sun keeps a strong proprietorial grip on its development.

Tony Lock, senior analyst at Bloor Research, said, "This is turning out to be Bill and Ben with knives. It is not in either company's interest to maintain this atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and doubt. If Sun could persuade Microsoft to rejoin the fold, or if it would release Java to the world, then that would be in the customers' interest. The personality clash between Microsoft and Sun is not."

Ovum research director for e-infrastructure Neil Ward-Dutton, sees it all as sabre-rattling. "These are positioning statements in the battle for investment mindshare," he said.

"The companies are just convincing customers that they have a vision but none of it translates into products that can be used in any anger today. Fundamentally, they are describing what the market will look like in 10 years' time."

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